About Us

Who we are

We are the designers builders of the, much acclaimed, STEPHENS & KENAU™ range of Museum Quality Sailing Ship Models.

Where are we?

We are situated on the South Coast of the Cape of Good Hope in Mossel Bay, South Africa. Our studio is part of the Mossel Bay Maritime Museum complex where a full size replica of the Bartholomew Diaz Caravel is permanently on display. Bartholomew Diaz was the discoverer of the Southern Passage to the East around The Cape of Good Hope, which he initially named Cape of Storms.

Visit our Studio

Our studio is designed in such a way that one can walk through and watch our craftsmen at work. A visit to our studio is a must when touring the Garden Route.


Considerations when buying a Model Ship


The art of model ship building is as old as maritime history itself. For centuries, plans of proposed new vessels, submitted to the admiralty for approval, had to be accompanied by a fully detailed scale model ship.

Many of these shipyard or builders ship models still survive today, centuries after the original ship sank or ran aground on some distant shore. These model ships are displayed in maritime museums around the world as reminders of days gone by of men of steel with their ships of wood.

As this craft was handed down from generation to generation, model ship building developed into a form of Maritime Art that is still practiced today by professionals and hobbyists alike. Even though computer aided design and laser technology have found their way into model ship building, their application is limited. Ship Models are still meticulously handcrafted today as they were centuries ago.

Today there is a great demand for high, or better known as Museum Quality Ship Models to be used as objects d’ art in Nautical Decor of private homes, lounges, studies, executive offices, boardrooms, hotel foyers, restaurants etc.


Acquiring a good model ship through the Internet is no easy task. It is a minefield, to say the least. Every dealer or model builder, whether good or bad, classify their ship models as ‘Museum Quality’. A paper on the requirements for a ship model to be classified as Museum Quality has been compiled and published by the Smithsonian Institution in conjunction with The Mariners Museum and Mystic Seaport Museum. Most of the model ships advertised on the Internet do not even remotely conform to these standards. One must conclude that the term Museum Quality is very misleading and certainly not a hallmark of the quality of the ship model.

The only way to acquire a true Museum Quality ship model is to commission one directly from a reputable model builder. When you are working through an agent or dealer you can be assured that the price of your model ship will be vastly inflated. Some of these dealers buy their ship models, that are mass-produced in places like China and Mauritius, for next to nothing and then add on exorbitant mark-ups. At a glance these model ships might resemble a particular ship or replica but they do not stand up to one minute of scrutiny. They are inaccurate and have no collectors’ value. A guarantee of lowest prices is also a guarantee of lowest quality.

At THE MODEL SHIPYARD the price of your model ship is determined by the number of hours spent and materials used. This of course is governed by the size and complexity of the model ship. Though our ship models are not cheap, it is good value for money. You get exactly what you are paying for. No middleman and no inflated price.

Beware of imitations

There are a number of websites that claim to be dealing in STEPHENS & KENAU™ ship models. When you visit these websites you will see that many of the photographs and text have been copied and pasted directly from our website, without our permission.

This is very sad because it took me a lifetime of research and development and they can simply steal it with a few keystrokes. On the other hand, I also feel flattered because the biggest compliment that you can pay someone is to copy him. I must be doing something right.

We are the only designers and builders of the STEPHENS & KENAU™ range of model ships in the entire world. The only way to acquire a true STEPHENS & KENAU™ model ship is to commission us directly to build it for you.

A STEPHENS & KENAU™ model ship simply cannot be imitated. Apart from perfecting and improving the age-old techniques that have been handed down from generation to generation, we also employ a number of very unique techniques that have been developed by us over many years and are closely guarded secrets.

To me a ship model must not just resemble the original ship; it must be an exact miniature. Anybody can glue pieces of timber and string together and it might resemble a particular ship. But only a true artist who has a proper understanding of how these old ladies were actually built and sailed will be able to capture the majestic lines that these tall ships are so famous for. I always say “a model ship must have an attitude”.

Seeing a STEPHENS & KENAU™ model ship in real life is a sight you will never forget. They are truly spectacular. Our attention to detail and scale never fail to amaze the spectator. A model ship must not just be authentic in every detail it must be nautically correct as well. It must be able to stand up to the scutiny of even the most salted sailors.

Amongst our craftsmen are accountants, historians, teachers, carpenters, fine artists etc. We do not build models because we cannot earn a living any other way. We build models because we love it. The passion that we have for our craft can be seen in everyone of our model ships.

We love what we do, we are proud of what we do and we are good at what we do.

For more information also read the section ‘How do we do it’ on this website.

Money back Guarantee

Every STEPHENS & KENAU™ model ship comes with a money-back guarantee. If you are not entirely satisfied with your model ship you can return it to us for a refund. I offer this guarantee with confidence because not a single model ship has ever been returned in all the years that we have been in business.

We are also committed to deliver your model ship to you in mint condition wherever you are in the world.


We accept all major credit cards. Payment can also be by electronic bank transfer.


We take a 50% deposit on acceptance of the commission and the balance when the model is dispatched.


It is by exception that we have completed ship models for sale. We work mostly by commission. It takes between eight to ten weeks to complete a model. Transit time is five or six working days.

What next?

When you inform us of your choice of model ship that you want to commission, we will email our pro-forma invoice to you. This you must print out, fill in your credit card details and email it back to us. Else you can fax it. We will then acknowledge receipt, and our acceptance of the commission, and then it is ‘all systems go’.

Progress reports

We take a range of digital photos while the model ship is under construction for our records. If you like we can email these to you from time to time. To me a model ship under construction is as beautiful as a completed one. While every effort will be made to keep you up to date with the progress of your model, you can contact us at any stage if you want an update. We always love to hear from our customers.

Registered and Certified

Every model ship is registered in the name of the owner. A certificate of authenticity and registration is issued with every ship model.

Display Case

We can supply you with the wooden frame for the glass display case, completely knocked down. This comes with a set of instructions, which gives you the exact sizes of the glass that you must order from your local glazier as well as a step-by-step instruction for assembling the case.

Please indicate to us if you want the frame and we will include it in our quote.

Delivery and Insurance


We will deliver your model ship in specially designed wooden crates. We have been delivering model ships in these for many years with great success.


Every model ship in transit is fully insured. In the unlikely event that your model ship is damaged in transit, The Model Shipyard must be notified immediately. Arrangements will then be made for your model ship to be returned to the studio in South Africa where it will be inspected and repaired. If your model ship cannot be repaired to its original splendour a replacement ship model will be built and sent to you.


We deliver DAP (Delivered At Place duties unpaid). This means that we deliver door-to-door. We pay for the air freight, insurance, customs clearance and final delivery to your door.

Import Duties and Taxes

We export your model ship under a tariff heading that is usually duty free. However this is not a guarantee because it can vary from region to region. You might have to pay VAT (Value Added Tax) or GST(General Sales Tax) depending on which tax regime prevails in your region.


dolor elementum amet, eleifend risus commodo massa mi, pulvinar